Tina Villis

HOW TO HIRE THE BEST PROPERTY MANAGER

Property managers is not the easiest role in the world; how often do we hear, ‘the property manager did not communicate with me, tenant selection was poor, my property was just a number and the managers kept changing’?

Keep in sync with your management!The waters of property management can be treacherous; you’ll want a sound navigator.

I agree that there are property managers out there who fit this scenario, however there are professional managers who have years of experience and are passionate about what they do. They have exceptional customer service, have outstanding communication, negotiation and organisational skills. The best property managers know how to apply a broad skill set to the unique situations they encounter including the ability to manage the more tangible related concerns such as maintenance and repairs. This skill set is acquired with years of experience, the support of mentors and the personality trait of being a “people person” and having an eye for detail.

This skill set is a prerequisite for any property management role for the following properties:

  • Long term unfurnished
  • Long term furnished
  • Short term furnished rentals

The easiest mistake to make is to  choose a management company purely based on price alone.

It is an important factor, however the old adage “you get what you pay for” is never a truer word. You may end up with a bad experience in hiring an unprofessional property manner who can’t perform their duties and you could end up losing money.

So, what should you go on when you hire a property manager?

  1. Look deeper than price
    This bears repeating! You may think that all property managers or management companies are essentially the same, so the lowest commission must be the best. When it comes to the care and management of your property, it behoves you to base your decision on factors outside the scope of a simple percentage. A typical management fee for rental properties is between 8 – 12% of the weekly rent and it is at the higher end for the management of fully furnished properties. Be sure to check what the percentage is based on.
  2. Ask for references
    Be sure to ask for references from other property owners, ideally owning properties similar in size and scope to your own. If the property manager cannot provide suitable referees, this in itself is a warning sign that they may be inexperienced or may not have any positive reviews.
  3. Is the property manager qualified?
    Requiring a qualification to be a property manager has not been enforced until recently. In the majority of states in Australia there has been legislation passed to have all property managers qualified. A trained and qualified property manager gives you confidence that they will provide a professional level of service and have a good understanding of legislation relating to the role of landlords and tenants.
  4. The need for strong communication
    You will be hearing from the property manager often enough so you need to feel comfortable that you will be able to get along with them on a personal level and you like their style of communication. It is important to recognise that you will be working through large and small issues with the manager. You need to feel that you are on the same page from the start and have confidence that they will choose the right tenant for your property. Ask how they would communicate, by what method and how often. Suss out whether they are interested in building a trusting relationship with you and do they ask questions to get to know your ‘needs & wants’. They must understand your persona.
  5. Managers need to be exceptionally organised
    Property management requires a high level of organisation relating to all aspects: routine inspections, maintenance and repairs, open inspections, assessing tenant applications. It is a good idea to ask the property manager to describe a ‘day in the work place’ to you, ask specific questions around daily routine and any management software used to keep things on track.
  6. Understanding the basics of marketing
    Most property managers are skilled at property maintenance and related tasks but may lack the skill of basic marketing.  It is important to know how to write the content when listing a property both on and offline. Writing a great property description requires knowledge about the amenities of a property and the surrounding location and therefore identifying the type of tenant the property would attract. Ask for an example of how they gather the content about a property and their involvement in advertising the property.
  7. How many properties do they manage?
    The number of properties managed by a property manager, too few and too many can be problematic. Too few can be due to inexperience and or poor service, too many can mean that the property manager has too much to do leaving not enough time to manage your property effectively. Be mindful of extremes.
  8. Do they own any rental properties themselves?
    This in an interesting question to explore – if the property manager has owned a rental property they would possibly have more understanding as an investor. This knowledge is invaluable!

Property Managers deal directly with prospects and tenants, saving you time, money and worry over marketing your rental properties, collecting rent, handling maintenance and repairs, responding to tenant complaints and tenant breaches. They also must have exceptional customer service skills backed by effective property management systems. There needs to be a personality match between you and the property manager and you should feel this synergy between you in the first 5 minutes of meeting. It doesn’t need to be a difficult process, and ideally these tips will help guide you in finding the correct property manager for you.

Tina Villis

HOLIDAY RENTALS MANAGED BY REAL ESTATE COMPANIES

MY RECENT EXPERIENCE

I stayed over Christmas and New Year at a property down on the Fleurieu Peninsula in South Australia with my family – luxury accommodation with fabulous sea views. The property was advertised as Holiday Accommodation and managed by a Real Estate company. As the owner of a portfolio of short term and holiday accommodation for over 15 years I believe I have the background to make comment.

This is what I found:

  • There was no BBQ – a must for a holiday at the beach.
  • The house was not clean – on the surface it looked fine but moving some furniture to accommodate guests on Christmas Day revealed some gremlins! Cutlery & glasses needed to be washed prior to use.
  • No hair dryer.
  • Wi-Fi was available but could not be used as the password had obviously been changed.
  • Instructions for the property were hand written on three small white cards.

Some helpful hints for real estate companies managing holiday/short term accommodation – how to remedy a similar situation in the future:

  1. Providing a BBQ is essential – entertaining guests around a BBQ is part of Australian
  2. A hair dryer is a must (you do get one supplied staying in a hotel).
  3. Functioning Wi-fi is mandatory. Guests check access to Wi-Fi before they check to see if there is running water!
  4. Cleanliness is one of the biggest pain points and is one of principal reasons that lead to guest complaints. Lack of cleanliness can ruin a guest’s stay before it begins and for managers it can ruin their business reputation. Working closely with your cleaners to ensure the highest standards goes hand in hand with pleasing your guests and maintaining business credibility.
  5. Provide a Welcome Book of comprehensive instructions is essential, anticipating any problems or issues before they arise. It needs to be tailored to suit the individual property, including arrival and departure information, rubbish disposal, instructions for using amenities like Wi-Fi, television, sound system, BBQ, swimming pool etc., as well house as rules regarding things like smoking, guest behaviour, parties, breakages, parking, security, pets – to name but a few.

I am an advocate for the holiday/short term rental industry and therefore encourage all management companies and owner/operators to provide the ‘best’ for their guest’s stay… and roll out that bbq!

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #5

Tip 5. MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

Achieving success in this industry is far more than jumping on the latest bandwagon and listing in a ‘scattergun’ fashion. Smart owners know exactly what their return is on marketing trends. There is much more to marketing than creating a listing. However, no amount of marketing and advertising can beat the success of word of mouth endorsements. You want your guests to be raving fans – they are walking bill boards for your business.

Listing your property on the various third party booking sites has positives and negatives. You do get more exposure, however it come at a cost either to the owner or the guest. Your website is your very own marketing tool so make sure it is a true reflection of your business. It should be easy to navigate and responsive, so intending customers do not get put off and jump to one of your competitors!

The best web listings and sites have only the best photographs. The old saying ‘a picture speaks a thousand words’ is never truer. Fabulous quality photographs taken by a professional photographer tell the story and paint the picture and should be so good that words are not necessary. Bedrooms showing bare mattresses, uneven and crumpled linen on beds, kitchens with dishes and empty beer bottles, outdoor images with junk lying around are not acceptable. Once you are on the internet whether on another site or your own, your property is exposed to the rest of the world.

Keep your branding for your business consistent, that is the same colours, the same fonts, consistent logo imaging. Your signature branding needs to flow through not only your website, but your business card, templates, email signatures, brochures, any advertising, sign boards and so forth.

When managing a short term accommodation business there are two types of customers – guests and property owners. It takes time to build a relationship with a property owner who have entrusted their property to your management. They are often concerned that everything will move forward as planned and may become ultra-sensitive and worry over trivial matters (at the time they do not think they are trivial matters of course). Communication is essential in these early stages & regular updates on their property, guest feedback and reviews are high priority. They also need to feel comfortable to pick up the phone and talk to you. There is so much more meaning in a conversation rather than a black and white email. Understanding their individual requirements is essential, for example, if they would like to use their property from time to time, or would prefer a more regular income and so may like the idea of a longer term guest. Over time, strong trusting relationships are built and through that connection, these owners are great ambassadors for your business and are a great referral resource.

Some guests will seek interacting personally with you, from the initial enquiry, to the ‘meet and greet’, to their departure. Appreciating the different needs of guests and treating them as individuals goes a long way toward having the guests repeat their business with you. Guest love customer service that is responsive and personable.

Responding to guest enquiries is the cornerstone to beating the competition in an overcrowded market. People will remember you and your property if you are quick to respond. If there is a delayed response, guests will have already moved on to another site or listing. Respond to emails within 24 hours, and that means answering enquiries daily. If there are vacancies, rather than email, pick up the phone and you will be surprised how this will increase your booking rates. When the response to an enquiry comes back instantly, it creates a positive perception within guests’ minds, particularly if it is friendly and personal reply rather than canned or generic.

Despite your website, third party booking sites, marketing and promotion material, advertising and social media, it is important to remember that owners and guests are still the greatest ambassadors for your business.

The end of the five tips in the series for creating success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation.

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #4

TIP 4. KEEP PACE OF INDUSTRY TRENDS

You cannot afford to be stuck the present and be solely focused on the day-to-day. It’s crucial to keep one eye focused on the future, including upcoming movements in the industry. If you are not anticipating the next big thing, you are destined to fall behind. Successful business owners study trends and anticipate what’s coming around the bend. As accommodation rental owners, you need to stay ahead of trends and ride the wave – maximising returns and the sustainability of your business.

There are a plethora of ways to maintain current in the industry: by joining relevant associations, forming local groups, forums on social media, researching on line and reading magazines and books, listening to podcasts and webinars, attending conferences and networking are all excellent ways to learn more about the industry you are in and the trends from overseas which we usually follow.

Some associations and groups worth considering are:

  • Bed & Breakfast Association
  •  Farm Stay
  • Holiday Rental Industry Association
  • Tourism Associations
  • Business Networking Groups
  • Local Chamber of Commerce
  • Networking groups with local owners

Our industry is consumed by the huge world-wide online booking agencies and that is all they are, purely bookings only. They are not accommodation managers, and their primary goal is to make bookings and take a commission. Yes, they serve a useful purpose, however the ideal is to have guests making enquiries direct to you or through your own website.

Airbnb is creeping into all parts of the world and the public often refer to our businesses as ‘Airbnb’. One of the main concerns is the public believe that anybody, anywhere can rent out a room. This has hidden risks involved as some homeowners do not understand the need for appropriate insurance cover, are not aware of safety and security issues, and have little understanding on how to vet their guests appropriately. Unfortunately, this affects the credibility of our industry.

There have been court cases in the Eastern states in relation to properties illegally being offered for accommodation (sub-letting) through Airbnb and high court cases involving local councils and governments on the use of high rise apartment buildings being allowed to holiday let. There are moves in some localities where owners are being asked to register with council for approval to run an accommodation business as it is deemed a commercial operation. It would be advisable for all short-term rental operators to accept and endorse the Holiday Rental Industry National Code of Conduct with House Rules to help maintain standards and to sustain self-regulation.

The current consumer market is choosing fully furnished and self-contained accommodation as an increasingly popular alternative to hotel accommodation. Space, comfort, facilities, amenities, cost and the chance to soak up the ambience of the locality are the main reasons for choosing this type of accommodation. The hotel industry has become concerned with this trend and are involved in the investigations into the short term accommodation industry in most states of Australia, pushing for regulation of our sector.

Holiday rental businesses have not been historically known to work closely together, however if this industry continues to come under attack around the world it is imperative that operators work more closely together and unite against regulatory and community adversity. The more universal version is that short term rental professionals the world over need to find each other as a support network both for our individual well-being and the well-being of the greater whole.

Stay posted for TIP 5. MARKETING AND CUSTOMER SERVICE

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #3

Tip 3. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT

Regardless of the number of properties you manage, it is essential that you know your product – the properties – intimately. Before this process begins assessment of the property for suitability for accommodation is the first step.

Questions to ask:

  • Is the location a marketable location, for example, beach, city, suburban, regional
  • Is the property type suitable, for example, cottage, villa, apartment, townhouse
  • Are there one, two, three bedrooms or more
  • How many bathrooms
  • Parking availability
  • Is the property fully furnished and self-contained
  • Maximum number of guests
  • Are there any stairs
  • Wheelchair friendly
  • Number of outdoor areas
  • Is there a pool or gym
  • Is the owner an owner/occupier or investor

When this information is gathered and after a visit to the property and meeting the owner, only then is it possible to decide whether the property is suitable for short term accommodation. Not every property ticks all the boxes – it may not be to a quality standard or the location may not be suitable.

Another important criteria in your assessment, is to understand the mindset of the owner. It is important that they are not too attached to the property, allowing you to manage the property – they need to have 5-star mentality, and they need to trust you and your vision. Owners who cannot ‘let go’ tend to micro manage and it makes a working relationship frustrating and time consuming on both sides.

If the decision is made to move forward, it is important to then appraise the property. This serves two immediate purposes – if a prospective guest has questions about the property, you are able to answer with full knowledge. This assists in building a relationship with the guest and they are more likely to book. Secondly, if issues occur when a guest is staying, say an electrical fault, you are able to use their assistance to trouble shoot, possibly saving you a lengthy trip to reset a tripped circuit breaker.

In addition to appraising the property it is also important to provide an inventory, that is, all the contents within the property including all furnishings and everything down to the number of knives and forks. It is a good idea to take photographs, especially of drawers and cupboards. This assists when an inventory audit is conducted and helps housekeeping staff check to see where items are normally kept – this is especially useful as guests tend to move items around.

For owners and managers of a property, knowing the product both internally and externally is essential. Each property will have important details that must be known – from the type of heating and cooling, accessibility, facilities provided (for example, tennis court, swimming pool, gym, games room, business centre, conference facilities), child friendly, pet friendly, security, type of water, smoke alarms, security alarm systems, utility meter locations, to the disposal of rubbish. This is far from an exhaustive list!

For this reason, documenting all the features of a property is essential. Kept on file for reference for ease of access. If you are the owner/manager of more than one property it is difficult to recall every property feature so it is important to have documented evidence to refer to. It also serves as a resource for the documentation prepared for guests, and can be used to guide service contractors and maintenance staff to the correct location.

It is a core essential to know as much about the property as possible. That knowledge gives confidence to the guest if things go wrong – as inevitably they do.

Watch this space for TIP 4. KEEP PACE OF INDUSTRY TRENDS

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #2

Tip 2. ADAPTING TO CHANGE

The success of your business hinges on your ability to provide a niche in the market-driven accommodation industry. You need to know what the accommodation market is a searching for and if you identify a deficit you may need to change your approach. In the last 5 years there has been a real shift in the market regarding the wants and needs of travellers. Relocation personnel are coming from interstate and overseas to meet the demand for specialised skill sets required for various industries, and this means there has been a shift in the need for alternative accommodation options.

For this to occur your business needs to be able to adapt to change from what it always has been to what it needs to be. The ability to adapt to the market is a real strength to the success of your business. If you fail to move with the times the competition will be so strong that the business you started no longer fits the needs of the market. The ability to adapt to a changing market is not easy, however it can be both challenging and rewarding.

Some strategies may include:

  • Offering short and medium stays – from a few nights to a several weeks or months
  • Considering long term options, say a 6 –12 month lease
  • Increasing your portfolio of properties. This may mean purchasing additional properties or managing other owners’ properties
  • Linking up with other accommodation operators
  • Offering holistic management services in your local area
  • Consider a booking-only management service

To offer flexible services to meet market demand is a move to establish your business in a niche market. A world where communication to anywhere is at the push of a button and travel allows us to commute from one side of the globe to the other in a relative short space of time drastically changes the face of the accommodation industry. These are exciting times and we need to take up the challenge, make changes and be market leaders whether we are regional, city-based, national or worldwide.

Stay posted for Tip 3. KNOW YOUR PRODUCT

 

Tina Villis

Five tips for Success in the Short Term Rental Accommodation Industry #1

Tip 1.   FOLLOW YOUR PASSION

If you are passionate about what you do, you will shine and success will follow.

Your idea to provide accommodation may start out as a hobby, something that you really enjoy that soon turns into a business. To turn a hobby into a successful business requires a marketing strategy, understanding the demographics of your guests and to appreciate your role as a provider in the tourism and travel industry. It is hard to be successful if you do the same thing as everyone else in the industry, so it is important to find your niche in a competitive environment.

 To reach your full business potential you need to surround yourself with the right team as they are integral to success. Your team may include a Reservations Manager, Property Manager, a Caretaker, Handyman or Gardener and they need to share your vision. Your business is only as good as your team. They can not only transform your business but also accelerate its growth.

It is important to understand all aspects of your business but it does not mean that you must do all the tasks to maximise your business. There are only 24 hours in each day, so it is more effective to do what you do best and outsource the tasks that you are not good at, to people who excel at them. To delegate effectively takes trust and the ability to clearly communicate what you want. This may mean delegating to staff or considering the option of out-sourcing and hiring a virtual assistant.

Running an accommodation business – whether a single property or multiple properties – is labour intensive and is mostly a 7-day week service, whether it is meeting and greeting guests, attending to enquiries, and maintenance issues, to name but a few. The message here is don’t try to be all things to all aspects of your business. If you are innately good at something or have a skill set, embrace it. Find other people to do what you can’t do and focus on your strengths rather than being ‘jack of all trades’ or ‘master of none’.

Stay posted for Tip 2.

ADAPTING TO CHANGE